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Thursday, October 9, 2008

If a Train Heads South at 78 mph, and a Goldfish Swims in Circles Counter-Clockwise...

I felt really smart today. Well, first I felt really stupid, but after that? Smart. And I would just like to publicly say that if Macy's wanted to hire me to figure out how much wrapping paper (of different prints, no less) they would need for their holiday gift wrapping business - and how much it would cost to buy it - I could handle it. In fact, I would be all over it. I'm actually surprised they haven't called already...

So I get to work this morning (local high school, substitute teacher, three periods of freshmen in Career Something-or-other right off the bat) and discover one of my biggest subbing pet peeves.

When I entered my class-for-the-day with approximately ten minutes to spare before second bell, I find this in my sub notes:

"We're starting a new section today on managerial and administrative blah, blah, blah. The lecture notes and instructions are on the following page (lies, all lies, by the way), and here's an outline of the project.

Groups of three with a leader, note-taker, and presenter. (Can I just say that one brilliant freshman asked what these jobs required?)

Give them the following information:

You work at Macy's and are in charge of the holiday gift wrapping from the day after Thanksgiving, to Christmas Eve. Statistics from the two previous years show that daily, you will need 20 small boxes, 30 medium boxes, and 50 large boxes. 45% of these use Santa wrap, 15% use Peaceful theme wrap, and 40% use Snowflake wrap. The wrapping paper comes in 100 sq ft rolls, and you cannot purchase partial roles. How many rolls of each kind of wrapping print will you need? If the wrapping paper costs 5 cents per sq ft, how much will your total wrapping paper cost? Groups should be prepared to present their work to the class when I return.

Yeah. Here's about where I started to feel really stupid. There's nothing I hate more than when a teacher decides to let me introduce a new section (without at LEAST informing me first), unless it's a teacher who wants me to do some kind of lab with lots of complicated steps without giving me detailed instructions OR an answer key.

Did I mention story problems were not my strong suit? At all???

I'm standing up there with these stupid instructions desperately thinking, "isn't some key information missing here? How big are the dang boxes?" .

Is it just me, or does anyone else think a little more info for the poor sub might have been kind?

So here's me in front of the class once I had them in their little groups, and had given out all the instructions listed above:

"Okay, does anyone know what the first step should be?" (this is said very hopefully) (hopes are dashed moments later by a room full of blank freshmen stares).

"Well, I don't really know either, but we need to figure this out so we don't all look really dumb when your teacher comes back." (Nothing like making yourself look really smart and competent in front of your students, right? And thankfully, this was right about the time I noticed a pile of boxes on a side table, with a bunch of rulers.)

"Hey look - some boxes. And rulers. I think we should start by measuring the boxes..." (but how to go about it? Under pressure my brain was just kind of spinning, spinning, spinning. Some kind of measurement that has to do with wrapping paper in 100 square foot rolls...)

I finally swung a deal with the class that if they would all measure away for the first half of the period and think REALLY hard about what they should do next, I'd tell the teacher they'd been good. I spent the rest of the period ruminating over the problem. And by the time 2nd period showed up - I was smart again. I actually managed to figure the whole thing out, breezed through the next two classes like a story problem genius.

Can I just confess that a part of me enjoys this sort of thing? No doubt this is because when it all comes down to it - I like a challenge.

Even if it requires looking like a fool in front of a room full of teenagers. Actually, that's just like taking the whole thing up a notch, which just makes it that much more exciting. And the payoff? Knowing at the end of the day that you handled it. That the old "mom brain" is still working after all.

And so, if there's anyone reading this post who would like a little challenge to wake up a brain spending too much time on housework, here it is: Go back up to the instructions, figure out ALL the steps required to answer both questions (since you don't have the boxes you can't really do the whole thing), and time yourself. Then in the comments you can leave your time. The first person who takes the challenge can also list the steps, and if you think they missed something, list your own version.

After all, I know you're all jealous of my experience today, and wish it had been you. But please try to deal with your feelings, because "Thou shalt not covet," and after all, everyone can't be a high school sub.

24 comments:

Melissa Bastow said...

Uuuhhhhhhhhhhhh..... I couldn't even make it through the instructions without my brain shutting down.

Can I just do some extra credit instead?

Kristin said...

Way to exercise your brain. To be honest I was already confused at the Blah, blah blah... Now I think I'm going to have nighmares tonight about high school exams, or Christmas wrapping.

Barbaloot said...

Oh my gosh...I have a headache from reading that! I wouldn't know where to start figuring that out.

Kellie Buckner said...

I like subbing for junior high. In junior high the kids are still shorter than me. With high school they are all much taller.

Jen said...

So glad I wasn't the only one who had a temoporary brain meltdown over this! Seriously, that makes me feel so much better. All three of you explained EXACTLY how I was feeling!

Kellie, I have to say that seventh grade is definitely the easiest subbing job in the world.

But now that I'm in the high school I think it's more fun:)

Claire said...

My head hurts. I just can't do story problems. Give me a sum... i'll do it. But this is impossible. IMPOSSIBLE!!!

*MARY* said...

I loved sub day at school. There was one lady that let us do mad libs the entire hour.

Kelly said...

Lucky you - I used to love math. However, I think my 'mom brain' has taken over. I get the general picture (I think...) measure boxes in inches, convert to ft. multiply number of small boxes by said ft (do same for med and large), then find 45%, 40% and 15% of each amount of boxes to find needed amount of paper.

Hmm, sounds easy (although I am not even sure I got that part right) but how in heck do you figure the surface area of a rectangle!? Mom brain fart. (hxwxl)x2? I cannot figure it out-so kudos in a big box to you!!!!

P.S. I'll bet you knew I'd take your challenge. Oh, the time. Well, I knew before I finished reading the problem we were missing the dimensions of the box. It took me about :4 minutes to do the rest. However, I couldn't even figure out the HARD part-so my good time doesn't even count!

Jen said...

Kel - yes, I had faith in you. Rather than spoil it (like anyone else is going to try) I'll just give you a clue on the measuring of the box thing. Go look at a box, think wrapping paper, and imagine your life depends on figuring out how to do it.

And there was one step you missed. But I won't tell you yet...

Debbie said...

Hi. Just found you from a comment on another blog. I am a sub too and I love this post. Don't you just get that heart beating out of your chest panic in situations like this? I loved this. I'm going back to look around some more.

sue q said...

MUWAH-HA-HA-HA! (i.e. sinister, evil laugh) I love story problems, and have been known to stew over them for hours or days or even years before solving them. I'm so on this...and I'll be back with the answer!

Natalie said...

Wow, Brainiac. I'm not touching this, but kudos to you!

Marivic_Little GrumpyAngel said...

Um, Jen I work with numbers for a living, statistics for the most part, and I'm sure if I were in your shoes my brain would shut down somewhere around the sq footage part. You're a frickin' genius for figuring this out on your feet. Cool and collected under pressure. My niece is also a sub teacher and we hear a lot of fun stories from her about the joys and trials of subbing. Yay for subs! I wouldn't be able to do that job, I swear. You guys deserve a medal and I mean that.

The Forrester Family said...

Jen - This is your old roommate from Ricks. I'd love to get back in touch! We live in Washington now. Email me: angieisaac@msn.com My husband is out on his "maiden hunting trip". To occupy my mind and calm my nervous, wandering imagination - I googled all the names from my childhood memories. Imagine how happy I was to stumble onto your blog! You write just like the same ol' Jen I remember - your voice is so you. Anyhow - get in touch with me I'd love to catch up.

Annie Valentine said...

Can't...take...too...much...for...small...brain...I stopped reading at "You work for Macys" and skipped to the punch line.

Stephanie said...

Jen, you are like the dream substitute teacher, that was a pretty funny story. And, I just read the skinny pants thing...someone said something about really yum cinnamon rolls. Do you remember Bro. Brown's cinnamon rolls in Rexburg? Those were the best I've ever had I think...besides CinnaBon, pretty much, you cannot beat theirs. If someone claims to, they should be in biz and quit talkin'.

The Crash Test Dummy said...

CUTE BLOG! So glad we've discovered each other!

You're funnnnnny.

Pat said...

Jen, thanks for visiting my blog. I loved the stuff I read on yours. I loved story problems when I was in high school. I once scored a perfect score. But bummer my kids never want me to help them with their home work. I think you are very brave to be a substitute teacher.

Nic said...

i am supposed to be cleaning out the family room, and so of course i am instead visiting random people's blogs and working out story problems. :)

ok, first i'd measure the boxes to determine the length, width, and height of each box. then i'd find the surface area of each box using the general formula of (lxw + lxh + wxh)x2. then i'd multiply the surface area of each box with the corresponding number of boxes for that size(20 for the small, 30 med, 50 large). then i'd add all of those areas together and convert to sq feet (divide by 144).

next i'd multiply the total square feet by .45. then i'd go back and multiply the total by .15, then go back once more and multiply the total by .4.

for each of those three answers, i'd round up to the nearest 100 sq feet. then i'd divide each answer by 100. that gives me the number of rolls needed for each print.

then i'd go back a step (before i divided by 100) and total the square feet for all of the prints. then i'd multiply that answer by .05. that will give me, in dollars, the cost of the paper.

hope i didn't make myself out to be too much of an idiot, but in any case, thanks for the opportunity to successfully suspend the cleaning just a bit longer.

took me a little under three minutes, although typing it out in a way that sounded halfway coherent (possibly?) took me quite a while.

glad i found your blog!

Nic said...

oh, and i should mention that if i had to figure this out in front of a bunch of teenagers instead of in the (relative) serenity of my house, there's no way i'd have it solved before lunch period.

Alison Wonderland said...

Ok I absolutely got that the dimensions of the boxes were missing and I have problems with the % because I'm reading that as 15% of all the boxes but that 15% could very well be made out of all small boxes but I'm willing to go with nic and assume that's whatever % of each size.

I'm not sure what else is missing, although it is going to bug me, but I do feel compelled to point out that when one wraps a present some of the paper overlaps meaning you need more paper than you have surface area and because of different sizes of different boxes you always end up with some wasted paper.

And where are they getting 100 sq foot rolls for $5.00?!

Alison Wonderland said...

Got it!!!!

I'm going to need a date for Thanksgiving.

Jen said...

Alison - yeah, we didn't have that critical little piece of info either - so we just used the present calendar.

And nic divided by 144 - but isn't that for cubic inches? If she's right and I'm wrong, then I messed up all the classes! We did discuss it in class, but decided we should divide by twelve for square inches...

Now I'm really curious!!

Jimh. said...

I have been subbing all grades for the past two years...I love it. My worst experience was a 3rd grade teacher that left two word instructions! No kidding! if that many. "343tm." oh, when I finally figured out her cryptic messages, I realized she had not made the necessary copies...so during recess I was down copying like a madman! I made stuff up...fortunately for me, I can draw, and keep relatively recent drawings meant for coloring in my bag. I can also teach them to draw items, which is almost always popular. I finished the day with help from the other 3rd grade teachers and luck. Turns out the highschool students like to color, too!

Thanks for making me feel like a superman right there with you!